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Michael Bradley has earned his spot. Again. (And he’s learning new languages, too)

Mar 6, 2012, 5:04 AM EDT

US midfielder Michael Bradley, in action last week during the team's 1-0 win over Italy. (AP Photo/Tanopress) US midfielder Michael Bradley, in action last week during the team's 1-0 win over Italy. (AP Photo/Tanopress)

For whatever reason, it seemed before that Michael Bradley had to do extra to earn his place on Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team.

Bradley played sparingly as the Klinsi got rolling last year. The scowling midfielder did start against Mexico during the manager’s splashy August debut, but didn’t find his name on the lineup for the next five matches. (None of those were impressive results, by the way.) Bradley appeared off the bench in two of those contests, and then did get back into the lineup as the Americans beat Slovenia, finally turning up a little offense in a 3-2 triumph over the tiny Balkans nation.

We don’t need to talk about the two USMNT friendlies to open 2012; those are for fringe national teamers, like Dynamo center back Geoff Cameron and former MLS defender Michael Parkhurst, both of whom shined in wins over Venezuela and Panama, winning subsequent spots on last week’s roster against Italy.

Bradley was on the roster, too. And he started. And he hardly looked out of his element, more than holding his own against one of the world’s top nations. Not that any of that should surprise anyone – not anyone who has watched the United States objectively over the last few years.

Not everyone can be. Clearly “objectivity” is a concept lost on some folks. So claims of nepotism were endemic in some circles during the previous World Cup cycle when Bradley’s father, Bob Bradley, ran the team.  But straining to make a case that Michael Bradley wasn’t earning his chops, independent of dad’s position, landed somewhere between “stretch” and “just plain ridiculous.” The guy can play. Period.

All that said, he seemed to have to prove himself all over again under Klinsmann, and he’s apparently done just that. I gave him high marks vs. Slovenia. And pretty much everyone gave him a big, ol’ fat check-plus against Italy, including the New York Time’s Jack Bell.

The U.S. Soccer communications staff took some time while in Italy to visit with Bradley at his new club, Chievo Verona. He’s well integrated into the team now, and here’s one reason: the American midfielder put in the work to learn the language. Quite quickly, in fact.  That’s huge in terms of gaining acceptance and establishing yourself as a club fixture, not just someone using the small Serie A club as a stopover pending the next move. Read the piece at USSoccer.com and see for yourself.

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